With over 250 species in the Verbena genus, you can find a wide variety of colors and sizes of verbena plants. While the plants are commonly grown as ornamentals, they are also used for their medical benefits. Due to their historical use, verbena flowers are seen as sacred plants and symbols of healing. Read on to learn more about verbena flower meaning and symbolism.
- The Meaning & Symbolism of Verbena Flowers – The Essentials
- About Verbena Flowers
- Uses and Benefits of Verbena Flowers
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Verbena Flowers
- The Symbolism of Common Verbena Flower Colors
- Suitable Occasions for Gifting Verbena Flowers
- Verbena Flower FAQs
The Meaning & Symbolism of Verbena Flowers – The Essentials
Verbena flowers are traditionally seen as symbols of sacredness and healing. They have many medical benefits and have been used by various cultures to bless buildings and altars. They are also used as ornamental plants in gardens and planters.
About Verbena Flowers
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
The Verbena genus is a member of the Verbenaceae family. Various verbena plants may also be referred to as verveine or vervain.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrance
While each species has some unique characteristics, the majority of verbena are annuals or tender perennials. However, they are rapid growers, and can quickly fill a garden bed or planter.
Some verbenas grow in a trailing habit while others have an upright form. The upright types can max out at anywhere from six inches to six feet tall.
The majority of verbena species have many clusters of small flowers with five petals. From afar, the flower clusters may look like one large flower. Many verbenas produce these flowers at the end of a stem, but others produce flowers along the length of a thin stalk.
Most verbena flowers don’t have much of a fragrance. While lemon verbena does have a strong citrus scent, this plant isn’t a true verbena.
History & Origins of Verbena Flowers
The vast majority of verbena species are native to Asia and North America. However, some species, such as Verbena officinalis, are native to Europe.
Over time, plant breeders developed new varieties of verbena. Many of these varieties are currently grown in gardens across the world.
Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars
With hundreds of verbena species as well as multiple cultivars within species, you can choose from many different types of verbena.
Here are some of the most popular species.
Common verbena (Verbena officianalis): While most verbena species are native to North America or Asia, this species originated in Europe. Therefore, it’s the species associated with many historical symbolism. The plants have light pink or purple flowers.
Purpletop verbena (Verbena bonariensis): This species is an upright plant that can grow up to six feet tall — hence the alternative name tall verbena. It has small, dark purple flowers that form larger clusters.
Blue verbena (Verbena hastata): Unlike many other types of verbena, this species features small flowers on a tall, thin stalk. It is also the species that is most often used for medical purposes.
Garden verbena (Verbena x hybrida): These plants feature a trailing or mounding form, so they’re perfect for ground coverings or cascading out of planters.
Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta): This verbena species is native to the central United States. It features small purple flowers that grow along tall flower stalks.
The name verbena originates from the Latin word meaning “sacred bough.” This further speaks to the belief that the verbena plant is scared.
What Regions are Verbena Flowers Native To?
The majority of verbena species are native to Asia and North America. Many species are considered wildflowers in the United States.
However, some species are native to Europe.
When are Verbena Flowers in Season?
Most verbena or annuals or tender perennials. Therefore, their flowers bloom in warmer weather.
Many varieties of verbena are long bloomers. They begin to produce flowers in the late spring and continue to bloom through the fall. However, you may need to trim the plant to encourage continuous blooms.
Uses and Benefits of Verbena Flowers
Verbena Uses in Herbalism and Medical Treatment
People have used verbena for hundreds of years to treat various medical conditions.
Some Native Americans used the plant to treat insomnia, headaches, and other medical problems.
The famous Greek doctor Hippocrates used different species of verbena to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. Some species were used to treat digestive problems, while others treated fevers and coughs.
Today, herbalists use verbena (especially blue verbena) as a nervine and antispasmodic. It is commonly used to relieve anxiety, muscle cramps, and more.
Healthline reports that verbena may be able to help reduce tumors, relieve anxiety, and protect nerve cells. It may also help protect gums and heart health.
When used for medical purposes, verbena is steeped in water to make a tea or soaked in alcohol to make a tincture. Chemical labs can also extract certain beneficial compounds from verbena plants.
Are Verbena Plants Toxic?
Members of the verbena genus are considered non-toxic to humans and pets. However, the closely related lantana genus members are toxic to pets.
Ornamental Use of Verbena
Most types of verbena are primarily used as ornamental plants. Their showy flowers and easy-to-care-for habit make them a popular choice for in-ground gardens, windowboxes, and planters.
Not only are the plants beautiful, but they are also popular with pollinators including bees and butterflies.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Verbena Flowers
Verbena Significance to Religion
Some Christians believe that verbena was used to treat Christ’s wounds as he hung on the cross. Others report that the plant sprung up from where Christ’s blood fell. That’s why this plant is sometimes referred to as the herb of the cross.
Druids often used the plant in ceremonies, as they believed it held powers. Additionally, witches used these flowers in potions.
Verbena in Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece
Egyptians held the verbena plant in high regard. Lore tells that the plant first arose from the tears goddess Isis shed when she learned that the god Osiris had died.
Both Greeks and Romans also believed the verbena plant was sacred. They used the plants to help purify important places such as temples and altars. Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder believed this sacred plant could purify locations as well as be a valuable component of potions.
The Symbolism of Common Verbena Flower Colors
As is the case with many flowers, each color of the verbena flower has a specific meaning. Here is the symbolism associated with common verbena colors.
Red Verbena Flower Meaning
Pink Verbena Flower Meaning
Pink verbena flowers are seen as symbols of good cheer and kindness. They are the perfect way to let a friend you are thinking about them.
Purple Verbena Flower Meaning
Blue Verbena Flower Meaning
Just as the sky and ocean present a feeling of calmness and serenity so do blue verbena flowers. However, since blue flowers are a bit rare, they can also be seen as symbols of mystery and intrigue.
White Verbena Flower Meaning
White verbena flowers are symbols of purity and innocence.
Suitable Occasions for Gifting Verbena Flowers
Due to their easy to care for nature and beautiful flowers, verbena make great gifts for all kinds of different occasions. Consider giving someone a verbena plant for a birthday, anniversary, or housewarming gift.
However, since these are warm-weather plants, the best time to give someone a verbena plant is in the spring. That means they make perfect gifts for holidays like Mother’s Day and Easter.
Verbena Flower FAQs
What Does a Verbena Flower Symbolize?
The verbena flower symbolizes sacredness and healing.
Are Verbena Flowers Lucky?
While verbena flowers aren’t seen as symbols of luck, some people say their sacred nature will bless your home with good luck.
Do Verbena Come Back Every Year?
It depends on the species. Some species of verbena are tender perennials and will come back each year if you live in a warm region. However, other species are annuals and will only live for one year.
How Long Do Verbena Flowers Last?
Verbena flowers begin to bloom in the late spring or early summer and may continue to bloom into the fall. Some species of verbena can last a week in a vase.
Do Verbena Flower More Than Once?
Verbena plants continue to produce new clusters of flowers throughout the growing season. So yes, verbena plants flower more than once.
Although many years have passed since the time of Ancient Rome and Egypt, verbena flowers are still seen as symbols of healing and sacredness. That means you can’t go wrong with planting some of these stunning plants in your garden.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.